The State of CBA Suspense


The state of CBA fiction is something that has been concerning me lately. Not the sales or the popularity of it, in this economy that seems to be holding its own. The thing that concerns me are the trends. Have you seen the latest Christian Book Distributor’s catalogs? The vast majority of fiction listed is Amish and sweet romance. In the latest fiction catalog, the first half of the booklet was devoted to Amish and romance. Suspense was way back on page forty-eight, after Westerns and Fantasy. Ouch!

What’s happening here? Is suspense being pushed out?

My friend, Eric Wilson, recently sent this sobering email to his email list (I’m using it with his permission):

This is the last chance . . .

If you haven’t heard already, Valley of Bones, the last book in the Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy will be out next April. My sales in the Christian market have been anemic, and my career in doing edgier books there is over after this. Please . . . help spread the word about this series to make room for others in the market. It’s sad to me that the latest ChristianBook.com catalog is overrun with Amish and romance titles. The readers have spoken, and there is no more room for my style of books.

At least not here.

I’ll be pitching a new series to the mainstream market (where I’ve always wanted to be anyway), and I have a high-octane NY agent who believes in what I’m doing. Let’s get the Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy moving off the shelves to get some more NY attention.

Folks, to me, that’s sad and scary. If this trend keeps up, more and more CBA suspense authors will be following Eric. I’m not sure what is happening or why but Eric is right, the readers are speaking and suspense seems to be on its way out. Seems to be . . . maybe we’re wrong (I sure hope so).

Now, I know there are a lot of suspense fans out there. I get emails from them just about every day. But for some reason, I’m thinking the sales aren’t showing it. Or maybe there just aren’t enough titles to compete with the other genres. Hmmm.

Any thoughts on this? Any ideas? I’d love to hear them.

By the way, I got the release date for Darlington Woods: May 4, 2010.

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on October 7, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I just checked my latest CBD catalog, and you're right – suspense/mystery is way at the back. It is my favorite genre' of Christian fiction, so I hope it isn't on its way out.No offense intended to Eric Wilson, but maybe his writing is a bit too far out for Christian readers? He is an excellent writer, but a lot of his books are a bit bizarre for my tastes – maybe people prefer a more traditional suspense/mystery book? Or that could just be my preference.Maybe more male readers need pulled in – a lot of women do seem to go for the romance & Amish, something I as a guy don't get into much – but from my wandering around on line, it seems there are still a lot of suspense/mystery fans out there – maybe it depends on what the books are about & what they are like.

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  2. Mark said it in his comment — the fact is that CBA readers are overwhelmingly female. They love the Amish stories and sweet romance. And the publishers pay attention because it's business. Although, at some point, the Amish books will have to hit market saturation. I was at a Barnes & Noble Sunday and was blown away by the sheer number of them. How do you decide when there are scores of books and almost as many authors?In a way, male readers are a marginalized group in Christian publishing. It's suggestive (since I have no data to back this up) of largers trends in American Christianity and American society in general. I've also run across criticisms (usually by female critics) of books like Offworld and those by T.L. Hines. They say that the Christian message is not explicit. Well, that's often true — the message isn't explicit even if it is implied. But these critics also say that they as readers don't feel edified after reading these books. Don't feel edified? That self-obsessive comment speaks volumes, and I'm thinking about a blog post myself on that one.

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  3. Susan J. Reinhardt

    Hi Mike -I was intrigued by Glynn's comment. The female critics are expressing what devotional writers have known for a long time: the takeaway value to the reader is key. I'm speaking from a reader's standpoint now. We want to see transformation and growth in characters. I love Suspense and write it myself. As a reader, I want to see some redemption from the trials and tribulations of life. I don't want the Christian message to be so buried I need a backhoe to find it.Thanks for bringing up this question. Congrats on the release date!Blessings,Susan 🙂

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  4. are you sure the list isn't in alphabetical order?

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  5. This discussion is flirting with some hot button topics in Christian publishing: for example, how overt Christian novels need to be and so on. But to answer your main question, "Is Christian suspense on its way out?", my answer is absolutely not. Look at "Intervention" by Terri Blackstock that just came out. It's ranked 1,657 in books at Amazon as of this writing, and it's been there for weeks. Her suspense novels sell like hotcakes, so no, I don't see Christian suspense dying anytime soon. Look at other suspense authors like Joel Rosenberg and Brandilyn Collins. I understand their sales are quite good, and they are still marketed as best-selling authors. I agree with some of the previous posters and pose a question. What type of suspense do you mean (since it's not all the same)? There's crime suspense, thrillers, legal suspense, supernatural suspense, romantic suspense, political suspense, woman-in-jeopardy suspense, lately more horror suspense, and so on. Crime suspense (Terri Blackstock), for example, appears to be doing very well, so perhaps it's a certain type of suspense that's suffering. This is only conjecture on my part. The positioning emphasis in the catalogs does typically reflect what readers are buying, but I know Terri Blackstock still gets several pages to herself as a "favorite author." I have no idea why suspense was at the back of the catalog since other indicators seem to contradict any notion of suspense waning. Maybe somebody should ask CBD and find out (?).

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  6. As host of The Suspense Zone, I couldn't stay out of this discussion. I don't think the genre is on it's way out, but I have noticed writers who push the boundaries of the genre struggle to find a home for their books in the Christian market. Also there is a definite decline in the number of new suspense books released. Example: Aug of 08 I counted 37 new releases. Aug of 09 7 new releases and most of these are romantic suspense. Could be the economy and releases of all fiction is down.I don't have any numbers on this, though. But I believe the decline is because as it has been said women are the majority of Christian fiction buyers and they in general don't like true suspense novels. But they love romantic suspense and this sub-genre is still going strong. This I am thankful for as I have a romantic suspense book, High-Stakes Inheritance, coming out in 2010. That's my two maybe three cents worth.

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  7. there are really so many variables as to how something is listed ad even more to why certain things are selling.some stores probably only buy so much of one kind of book, and how it is displayed makes a difference, then there is how it is advertized…i have some questions for you.why do you write what you write?what are the reasons for your writing?what are you trying to get across to your audience?what does your writing do for the reader?some of the answers are within yourself.

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  8. oops…advertised.oh well, you know what i mean.

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  9. I notice too that there isn't alot of Christian suspense or mystery novels to choose from. For years I restricted my reading soley to Christian fiction, then a few select other authors. I am at a point in my life where a romance novel is nice to read once in awhile, but they become all the same after awhile. I too noticed on the shelves that Amish seems to be a big theme and it bugs me because some of the books the Amish do non-Amish things. So I try not to get them to read anymore. I know there are good Christian suspence writters and I wish they were more visible. My local libraries don't even have have your books, Mike and I tried Eric Wilson's name and I don't think I found him either and my county has 17 libraries and not a one carried them. SIGH!!Just keep on writting your suspense and make it appeal to both men and women and maybe they will take off and by-pass romance. :0)

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